From Artists’ Points of View: How You Can Mitigate Climate Change and Promote Sustainability, Part 2

In the Wilmette Institute’s January eNewsletter we highlighted a number of actions that students in the Climate Change course have taken as they put what they have learned into social action in their homes, neighborhoods, coalitions of religious groups, children’s and junior youth classes, devotional programs, work places, and teaching efforts. In this issue we share actions taken by artists to render concepts related to climate change and sustainable development in several artistic mediums. Two of the students took the Climate Change course. One was a student and then faculty member in the course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind. The course on Sustainable Development, with Arthur Lyon Dahl as lead faculty, was offered in the fall of 2013. Climate Change, with Christine Muller as lead faculty, was first offered in February 2013 and repeated in May 2013. It will be offered again in March 2014 and September 2014.

A Collage Called “Climate Change: Bridging the Gaps through Effective Education and Action”
Rolando Maddela, Grand Prairie, Texas, USA
A student in the Climate Change course

I made my collage from recyclable materials—pictures from old magazines and strings. It depicts the world divided. One side shows the excesses of society and the consequences. The other side shows a green, healthy, clean world. The broken world is connected in the middle by colored strings signifying that there is still hope if all humanity, in all their diversity, will unite and work toward climate change mitigation.

Climate Change Collage 2013A

Rolando Maddela
Collage, “Climate Change: Bridging the Gaps through Effective Education and Action”

When I tested the collage by showing it to family, neighbors, and officemates, I found that it was effective in conveying the simple message of the urgency for mitigating climate change. It elicited similar responses of the necessity to “FIX” (as one pre-youth said) the world, to bring life back, to avoid greed. There is hope if we take action; balance is needed.

When I presented my collage to my research department, my colleagues enjoyed my presentation with the vast majority agreeing with the negative effects of climate change. I think it raised awareness about waste management, as they have become more conscientious with recycling.

I also presented the collage to a junior youth group and inspired them to think of possible projects. Then I used it in a devotional gathering for the neighbors. The objective was to make them more aware of the need for mitigating climate change.

The collage is in my study room at home and can easily be seen when a guest comes to our house. Hence it has become an effective conversation piece.

Sculptures by Cynthia Crampton
Cynthia Crampton, Park Ridge, Illinois, USA
A student in the Climate Change course 

One of Cynthia Crampton’s goals in the course on Climate Change was to “incorporate information learned” in the course’s units into her “current body of artwork.” At the end of the course she wrote this: “I have been able to expand my personal art project to incorporate inspiration from the course materials, especially the spiritual writings.” She has shared with us photographs of four sculptures. The one entitled “untitled #1 is completely finished. The ones called “untitled #2,” “untitled #3,” and “untitled #4” are finished as far as the sculptures are concerned, but the surface treatments are not completed. Some of Crampton’s sculptures have been included in two recent exhibitions—one at the Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, Illinois, and one at the Brickton Art Center, Park Ridge, Illinois.

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Cynthia Crampton
Untitled 1, finished sculpture

About her sculptures Crampton wrote this: “My current artwork is the convergence of an interest in sculpting the human form and my recent studies in global climate change.

“The symbiotic relationship between nature and the human figure are informed by visual as well as environmental connections. To begin, I work in clay, one of the oldest and most sustainable “natural” art materials. A sculpture begins with three to four sessions working from a live model, after which each piece begins to dictate a direction morphing with nature.

“The appeal to combine the human form with elements from nature comes from my aspiration to evoke a sense of mutual reliance between the welfare of humanity and the health of the environment. I achieve this by constructing the two entities as a single unit. In an ever-crowded, consumer driven world our connection with the natural environment is weakened as we lose sight of our responsibility to act as stewards of this earth.”

The evolution of Crampton’s thinking about climate change and her responsibility for making it a priority in her life is evident from her comments about the course.

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Cynthia Crampton
Untitled 2, unfinished sculpture

Where I Started and What I Learned. “Before this course I had a vague understanding of myself and society in general about the need to be cautious about our impact on the environment, but I did not have concrete methods or urgency to my actions. After studying the course material and gaining facts, I have become more acutely aware of my actions. For instance, although I have banned myself and family from buying bottled water in plastic water bottles, I was buying other drinks, juices, tea, and so on in plastic bottles. During my studies I realized what I was doing and began to look for alternatives, which were many times difficult to find. Some of my solutions have been buying products in glass only or making my own “fresh” products. I also became more aware of my “new” acquisitions and have tried to become more aware of purchasing out of real necessity, not desire, and looking for reused products instead of brand new ones in an attempt to change the consumer society I have become immersed in living in the United States.”

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Cynthia Crampton
Untitled 3, unfinished sculpture

Working My Way through the Course—Acquiring New Feelings and Attitudes. “During the first few weeks of this course I found myself experiencing a great sense of urgency and frustration because I had not realized the extent to which we are ignoring the issues of climate change. As the material began to introduce physical and spiritual changes individuals can practice to begin to affect the issue in a positive way, I began to feel empowered. These feelings were all new for me with regards to the subject matter.”

Changing Values and Beliefs. “Oddly enough (at least in my mind it seems odd), I have found a strengthening in my spiritual convictions after completing the course material. I do not think I have any new beliefs with regards to the science or ethics of climate change, but I feel that I have a stronger personal conviction and integration of my personal spiritual growth needed to make many of the changes required to live a more sustainable lifestyle.”

Applying What I Learned. “I feel the best way to apply what I have learned in this course is to become more proactive in my life, personally and within my community, to encourage action. I hope to do this through continuing to educate myself, discuss climate change with friends and family, and live a more sustainable life style. I have gained a clearer understanding of the science behind the changes I see within the world and now have the resources to find more information to study and learn how to make changes and affect change.”

An Unnamed Collage for the Cover of a Three-Ring Binder
Gary Colliver, Mariposa, California, USA
A student in and then a faculty member for Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind 

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Gary Colliver
Unnamed collage for three-ring binder cover

“I put together my collage (a modest effort at something artistic by someone without much artistic talent) for the front of the three-ring binder that I used to collect the resources and work for the course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind. It summarizes my feelings about sustainable development at the time and reminds me of what I thought of as a “core issue” in sustainability—namely, the central role of the transformation of the human heart and its spiritual relationship with its social and physical environment. It also works as a conversational piece with several people at the coffee shop where my wife and I often go to read, work and visit.”

Conclusion.

Please let us know what actions you are inspired to take to reduce the effects of climate change and promote sustainable development. Send your actions to info@wilmetteinstitute.org.